Easing Anxiety Through Aromatherapy

Written by Ben Owens in collaboration with Carol Hollister and Michelle Miller.

Anxiety and depression disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses worldwide. These issues can be mentally and physically debilitating, and for many people, finding appropriate and effective ways to cope with these feelings is often extremely challenging. According to the Miriam-Webster definition, anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it.” At times, folks who experience these feelings often feel helplessly trapped in an unescapable cycle. Luckily, there are natural tools that we can utilize to provide a sense of relief and break the seemingly never-ending battle of these overwhelming feelings that come from within.

Aromatherapy is an incredibly powerful resource that we can use to ease feelings of anxiousness, anxiety, and depression. While aromatherapy is often used to treat physical ailments such as pain or inflammation, it is equally beneficial for balancing emotional wellness and relaxing the mind. But what essential oils are the most effective combatting feelings of anxiety, and what causes them to be so beneficial for putting our minds at ease?

The specific aromas that essential oils release enter the upper respiratory tract and stimulate the nerve that is connected directly to the limbic area of the brain, which is responsible for processing our sense of smell. The limbic area also stores highly charged emotional memories, and affects all sleep and appetite cycles, moods, sexuality, and bonding. When individuals suffer from anxiety or depression, it is usually a result of poor communication between the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the limbic system, which regulates the emotional state of a person.

When searching for natural remedies for anxiety, we choose essential oils that have high levels of specific molecules that improve the communication between the brain’s prefrontal cortex and limbic system. The most common molecules that help with this include linalol, linalyl acetate, and d-limonene.

Linalol, Linalyl Acetate, and D-Limonene molecules provide several research-based benefits that work together to provide relief for people who are suffering from anxiety or depression, including:

  • Calms the central nervous system
  • Supports the immune system
  • Relieves pain
  • Decreases swelling

Next, we’ll identify and explore essential oils that contain these key components.


Common Essential Oils Beneficial for Combatting Anxiety

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
The most commonly used essential oil used to treat feelings of anxiety is Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Known best for its distinct floral fragrance, Lavender essential oil is steam distilled from the plants’ flowers and is rich in both linalol and linalyl acetate. These two key constituents form a synergy that works to reduce stress and offers a sedative effect, ultimately calming the nervous system and helping to promote sleep and relaxation. While there are over 30 different Lavender species, Lavandula angustifolia generally offers the highest percentages of linalol and linalyl acetate, making it the most appropriate Lavender species for addressing anxiety issues. 

Bergamot Mint (Mentha citrata)
Another beneficial essential oil for providing relief for anxiety is Bergamot Mint (Mentha citrata). A member of the mint family, Bergamot Mint is steam distilled from the leaves of the plant, and is reminiscent of traditional peppermint, with soft undertones of fresh citrus that break through and provide a vibrant and pleasing aroma. Like Lavender, this oil is rich in both linalol and linalyl acetate. Because of this, Bergamot Mint makes a great alternative for folks who dislike the floral scent of Lavender but desire similar soothing and relaxing properties. Often, physical pain can be a contributing factor to feelings of anxiety. When used topically or inhaled, Lavender and Bergamot Mint are both great options for relieving pain and decreasing swelling, and thus are appropriate choices for “breaking the cycle” of anxiety that is sometimes caused from physical ailments. They gently interrupt this cycle, slowing down the pain and discomfort from both a physical and mental aspect.

(Citrus aurantium var. amara)
Known as a precious oil, Neroli essential oil is steam distilled from the handpicked blossoms of the Citrus aurantium tree, the same tree that produces the fruits from which Bitter Orange oil is derived. Neroli has a deep, warm, and citrusy aroma that fills the room simply by opening the bottle, so a little truly goes a long way. Containing a synergy of linalol and d-limonene components, Neroli is a powerful and beneficial oil for people who are experiencing trauma and/or shock. In my personal experience, Neroli has been the most effective for combatting severe acute feelings of anxiety, and is often used to calm similar feelings in preoperative patients.

Petitgrain Bigarade (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
Derived from the same species as Neroli, Petitgrain Bigarade essential oil is distilled from the leaves of the Citrus aurantium tree and offers an earthy, citrusy, and herbal aroma. Rich in linalol and linalyl acetate, this oil is another great choice for calming the central nervous system and promoting a sense of emotional tranquility. Because it is distilled from the leaves rather than handpicked blossoms, Petitgrain Bigarade is a more economical choice compared to precious Neroli oil, while offering many of the same therapeutic benefits.

Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
Grapefruit essential oil is a d-limonene superstar! Consisting almost exclusively of this relaxing and calming component found within citruses, Grapefruit offers a bright and vibrant aroma that is reminiscent of freshly squeezed juice. Oils with a high d-limonene content are coveted for their ability to soothe physical and emotional stress, and because of this, are often key ingredients to cold and flu blends. As previously noted, anxiety often involves a cycle of physical pain which induces mental anxiety, which then often further worsens the physical pain and perpetuates the cycle. Citrus oils such as Grapefruit are effective at interrupting and easing this uncomfortable cycle.

There are several other common essential oils that contain significant amounts of linalol, linalyl acetate, and/or d-limonene components which make them great candidates for relieving symptoms of anxiety. Some of these include: Bergamot, Clary Sage, Lemon, Palo Santo, Rosalina, Sweet Orange, and Thyme (linalol).

At A Glance: Essential Oils for Anxiety & Their Key Components
(Swipe Right & Left On Mobile)

Essential Oil

% of Linalol

% of Linalyl Acetate

% of D-Limonene





Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)




Bergamot Mint (Mentha citrata)




Neroli (Citrus aurantium var amara)




Petitgrain Bigarade (Citrus aurantium var amara)




Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia)




Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens)




Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)




Thyme (linalol) (Thymus vulgaris ct linalol)




Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)




Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)




Lemon (Citrus limon)




Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)




Percentages of components listed above are averages calculated from gc/ms reports published 2013-2021. Always refer to batch specific reports when making decisions for therapeutic formulating.
Source: https://pompeiistreet.com/gc-ms-archive/


As previously mentioned, the best method of use to address anxiety is by inhalation, which is easily achieved via personal nasal inhalers or by diffusion. When formulating an aromatherapy product, we often create a synergy blend of two or more oils whose combined effect is greater than the effect of using the oils individually. Basically, it’s several oils working together to create a more beneficial outcome. Below, we’ve created three recipes for synergy blends that are great for easing those uneasy feelings of anxiety.


Personal Nasal Inhaler for Anxiety Relief

Simply add the following essential oils to a personal nasal inhaler

Note: These oil amounts can be adjusted in any combination to fit your personal liking. All are helpful for relaxing feelings of anxiety.

Roll-On for Anxiety Relief

To a 10 ml roller-ball bottle, add the following essential oils:

Fill the rest of the bottle with jojoba oil, then shake well. Apply topically as needed.

Diffuser Blend for Anxiety Relief

Add the following essential oils to an ultrasonic diffuser filled with water:


Always dilute essential oils before applying to the skin and keep away from mucous membranes. Many citrus essential oils are phototoxic and if used topically on the skin, completely avoid sunlight (natural or artificial) for 12 to 24 hours after application. Permanent skin discoloration may occur. Consult a licensed physician if pregnant or nursing. If the oil is past its “Best by” date or stored improperly, it may cause irritation and lose therapeutic value. Avoid the use of essential oils near infants and small children.


 “Anxiety.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety. Accessed 23 Feb 2021.

 LizarragaValderrama, LREffects of essential oils on central nervous system: Focus on mental healthPhytotherapy Research20201– 23https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6854

 Butje, Andrea. Natural Anxiety Relief with Essential Oils. Aromahead, 29 Mar. 2019, aromahead.com/online-course/natural-anxiety-relief-with-essential-oils/video/natural-anxiety-relief-with-essential-oils-webinar/205.

 Hampton, Debbie. “Help Depression by Healing Your Limbic System.”  The Best Brain Possible, 17 April 2016,   www.thebestbrainpossible.com/how-to-help-depression-by-healing-your-limbic-system/.  Accessed 23 Feb 2021.


For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a licensed healthcare professional before administering essential oils.


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